Gdynia, Poland – Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir lowered her own world record for an all-women’s half marathon at the world championships in Gdynia on Saturday but serial record-breaker Joshua Cheptegei missed out on a medal in the men’s race.
The 27-year-old Jepchirchir, who also won world half marathon gold in 2016, produced a final sprint to take the women’s title in 1 hour, 5 minutes and 16 seconds.
That bettered the previous best of 1:05:34, set by Jepchirchir herself in Prague on Sept. 5.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Jepchirchir.
“My goal was to win this race. I did not expect that I would beat the world record, but I realized that it could happen when we passed 20 kilometers.
“It was a little bit windy, but the course was good for me.”
She came home just two seconds clear of Germany’s Melat Yisak Kejeta, who smashed the European women-only record to take silver in 1:05:18, with Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw a further second behind.
On a cold and windy morning, a group of favorites broke away early during the four-lap race but three of them suffered falls to disappear from contention.
Defending champion Netsanet Gudeta’s race almost came to an abrupt stop as the leaders took a 90-degree turn on to the seafront, with Gudeta taking a fall and losing several seconds to the leaders.
It was a gap she would never close as the Ethiopian slipped farther behind during the third lap.
Turkey’s Yasemin Can led a group of seven through 10 km in 30:47 after which Jepchirchir began to take control.
Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh, world record holder in a mixed race (1:04:31), then tangled with Joyciline Jepkosgei and both crashed to the ground, leaving Jepchirchir, Kejeta and Yehualaw to battle it out in the final sprint.
Cheptegei comes up short
Jacob Kiplimo took the men’s race in a new championship record of 58:49 but his Ugandan compatriot Cheptegei, the favorite for the title, could only finish fourth.
Kiplimo, who turns 20 next month, had never raced the 21.1-km distance before but he showed nerves of steel as he and the Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie broke away from the leading pack after the 15-km mark.
The 2017 world junior cross champion then pushed clear in the last few meters to edge Kandie by five seconds and secure his first major title.
Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn took bronze, coming in another 14 seconds behind.
Cheptegei finished fourth in 59:21, over half a minute behind Kiplimo — a rare disappointment for an athlete who has lit up a truncated 2020 season.
“I couldn’t give more than that,” said Cheptegei, who set a world 10,000m record in Valencia just 10 days ago.
“I have been training more for 5000 meters and 10,000 meters so I was not well prepared for it, but I’m very happy — running a sub-60 (minute) is really special for me.
“My body was really going very well but I discovered I still had some fatigue in the legs.”
The 24-year-old had only made three outings this year but had broken a world record each time.
In February he claimed the world 5-km road record in Monaco. Then, after a period of coronavirus lockdown at home in Uganda, he returned to Monaco and, in his first race back, wiped almost two seconds off Kenenisa Bekele’s 16-year-old track world record time over the 5,000m as he clocked 12:35.36.
Earlier this month in Valencia, he smashed Bekele’s 10,000m track world record, taking off over six seconds as he clocked 26:11.
Those efforts may have counted against him as he attempted the half-marathon distance for the first time in competition.
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